What does modern direct democracy mean? Are citizens competent to decide complex political questions? How does direct democracy fit into an overall concept of democracy? These are issues dealt with in this topic.


This topic explains the main instruments of direct democracy: initiatives and referendums. In addition, it deals with the agenda setting initiative and the plebiscite, which in my view do not belong to direct democracy.


This topic provides stories or concrete examples of how direct democracy, plebiscites and agenda setting initiatives work in practice, on the local, regional and national level, and in different countries.


This topic deals with the histories of direct democracy. It contains an account of the emergence and institutionalization of direct democracy in Switzerland, the country with the longest tradition and largest practical experience of direct democracy in the world.

Functions & Effects

This topic deals with the functions and effects of direct democracy and plebiscites. Direct democracy works properly only under conditions of a mature democracy and provided the instruments are well designed, complementary, regularly used and integrated with representative-electoral democracy.


The quality of the legal design is crucial for the performance and effectiveness of direct democracy. Only well-designed procedures can achieve democratic results. It is also important that the instruments/procedures are sensibly matched.